J&J not ready to throw in the towel in body powder suits

body powder

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) may have lost two multimillion-dollar verdicts over its body powder products but don’t expect the company to throw in the towel just yet. With science on its side, you can bet the healthcare and consumer giant with continue to defend the popular product. 

Some experts think the losses might move J&J toward a global settlement. But Gene Williams, a Houston-based attorney who has defended the company during three powder lawsuits disagrees. He tells Reuters the company will continue to argue in court that its talc-based J&J Baby Powder and Shower to Shower are safe. Plaintiffs have claimed that the products cause ovarian cancer.

There “is no proven linkage between talc and ovarian cancer, and the vast majority of scientific and regulatory bodies, who have reviewed the same studies the plaintiffs point to, do not accept the premise,” Williams said. “The science supporting the safety of talc has gotten stronger and stronger.”

J&J will need to make that argument--and make it well--when it faces two body powder lawsuits this fall scheduled for trial in Missouri and New Jersey. At least 1,400 cases have been filed over related claims, Reuters reports, and most of those are in Missouri where rules tend to favor plaintiffs.

The company has already suffered some stinging courtroom defeats over its body powder products. In February, a Missouri state jury slapped J&J with a $72 million verdict in a case alleging that the company downplayed risks associated with its body powder in order to boost sales.

In May, the company lost its second jury trial over cancer risks tied to its body powders. A jury in the same St. Louis, MO-based court awarded $55 million to plaintiff Gloria Ristesund, who claimed that she developed ovarian cancer after using J&J’s products for feminine hygiene. In an earlier trial in South Dakota, a jury said J&J had been negligent but did not award any damages and there was not appeal.

J&J has said that it would continue to defend its position in court but some legal experts thought that two unfavorable verdicts might push the company toward a settlement.

“The more talc verdicts that come down against them adds to the public’s growing distrust of their baby powder, which is one of their iconic products,” University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said earlier this month. “There are both economic and reputational issues that may motivate them to start thinking about a global settlement of these cases.”

- read the Reuters story

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